Flower power

Hey, plants aren’t for sissies!

1. Name three plants that were contributing causes of wars.
2. What two plants helped spread the ideas and philosophies of major civilizations?
3. What plant helped build a new industry?
4. What two plants are the greatest food staples of the world?
5. What large grass has been used to build fleets?
6. Name three plants that played a role in colonization.
7. What plant is a symbol for architectural elegance?
8. Can you name any of the plants found in King Tut’s tomb?
9. What plant caused an economic collapse?
10. What plant is the greatest boon to humanity?


1. British tariffs on tea became a symbol of taxation without representation, and the Boston Tea Party set the stage for the American Revolution. Cotton, one of the cornerstones of the old American South, increased the demand for slaves, which some historians believe contributed to the Civil War. The opium poppy was behind the Opium Wars, 1839-42 and 1856-60, with England and France on one side and China on the other.

2. Olives and olive oil were the chief export of ancient Greece and, through their trade, the Greeks spread ideas that became the foundation for Western civilization. We also know a great deal about the ancient world thanks to the Phoenicians and Egyptians, who used paper made from papyrus. This ready source of writing material helped promote and spread literacy.

3. Christopher Columbus brought the vegetable gum we call rubber back to Europe after he saw natives tossing an elastic substance collected from caoutchouc trees (Hevea). It took 300 years before rubber was widely used commercially, and eventually rubber came into its own with the automobile industry.

4. Rice has the edge over wheat as the most widely consumed food from a plant. Both are steeped in history. For example, Alexander the Great introduced rice to the Western world when he brought it back from India. Seeds of wheat have been found with Iron Age implements. Columbus introduced the grain to the New World.

5. In Asia, the world’s largest grass, bamboo, has been used to make everything from flutes to boats. Bamboo seeds and sprouts also are a food source.

6. The spice trade, particularly pepper, led to development of great merchant fleets, which in turn led to colonization. Later, sugar cane played a role in colonization. A South American tree, the cinchona, helped make possible colonization of tropical countries. Quinine, a cure for malaria, is produced from its bark.

7. Leaves of bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis) decorate the top of Corinthian columns and are often used to symbolize elegance and grace.

8. Plants found in King Tut’s tomb include cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), mandrake (Mandragora), lotus (Nymphaea), olive (Olea), willow (Salix) and nightshade (Solanum).

9. In the 1630s, prices of fancy tulips reached such staggering sums that investors lost entire fortunes on bulbs and often were forced into bankruptcy. The phenomenon, while most rampant in The Netherlands, spread to England and France.

10. No contest. It’s a product of beans from the Theobroma cacao tree. Chocolate.

by Dulcy Mahar
Garden Writer, The Oregonian